The first day of action at the Welsh Open on Monday sees the majority of the held over qualifying matches taking place as well as the start of the main draw on a tasty looking day of snooker inside Celtic Manor in Newport.
With the exception of Ronnie O’Sullivan who is being given 24 hours to recover from playing in the European Masters final, the entire top 16 will be on show over the course of the three sessions on Monday so the action should be good right from the off.
The defending champion Jordan Brown will be the man to get the tournament underway on the main table. The Northern Irishman will go up against Mitchell Mann for a place in the main draw while over on the streamed table Shaun Murphy will be looking to find some form. He defends the money he won when winning this title two years ago so this is a big week for him. He’ll start his quest to regain the title against Andy Hicks.
Two of the better Scottish players in the game will be involved on the outside tables when Anthony McGill and Stephen Maguire are in action. Both have tests which could get tricky if they allow them to. Maguire meets a Fergal O’Brien who has started picking up the odd result again while McGill takes on a Zhang Anda who is a lot better than his ranking would suggest, as shown by the fact he almost beat Ronnie O’Sullivan in Milton Keynes last week.
As ever in a Home Nations event there are two sets of matches in the afternoon session with Judd Trump the centre of attention in the early part of proceedings. He’ll be on the main table looking to make it through to the tournament proper when he faces Dean Young while over on the streamed table Kyren Wilson will take on a home hero in Dominic Dale. Barry Hawkins is also on the baize first up in the afternoon session. He meets Alexander Ursenbacher while the amateur Liam Davies meets the Ukrainian youngster Iulian Boiko who might have a little more than just snooker on his mind.
Mark Williams will grace the TV table in the second part of the afternoon. He will meet Michael Judge for a place in the first round of the tournament. Over on the streamed table Yan Bingtao is another star name on show in this session. He faces Ashley Hugill while Stuart Bingham will be looking to make it through to the main draw when he meets Sean Maddocks who looks like his days on the tour will come to an end at the end of the season.
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Neil Robertson is the player of the season so far and he’ll be first up on the TV table in the evening session. He will take on the evergreen Jimmy White for a place in the main draw while over on the streamed table Zhao Xintong will look to make it through to the event proper when he takes on Oliver Lines. The strength of the evening session is so good that Mark Allen will only be on an outside table when he meets Ken Doherty with the other game seeing Elliot Slessor taking on Dylan Emery.
The world champion Mark Selby is on show in the second of the matches on the TV table on Monday evening. He will look to kick his season into life and he attempts to make it into the main draw when he faces Chen Zifan. There is another legend vs Chinese player battle on the streamed table in the second part of the evening too when John Higgins takes on Pang Junxu in a real banana skin for the former champion. The other two matches are first round games and see Gary Wilson facing Si Jiahui and Allan Taylor meeting the home man Michael White.
I’ll open up the week with the one bet which comes in the form of the amateur player Si Jiahui when he meets Gary Wilson in the first round in the evening session. Wilson opened up the season in fine form when he made the final of the British Open but he has been quite mixed since then and recently his form hasn’t been great. Since the UK Championship defeat to Liam Highfield he has lost to Fergal O’Brien and Lukas Kleckers and only came through to this event in a deciding frame victory against Peter Lines.
Si Jiahui caused a right stir at the UK Championship when he took care of Shaun Murphy in the first round and being an amateur he has the benefit of playing in the professional events he gets into as a Q-School top up and the amateur events. He won one of the three Q Tour events so far and made the final in another and at the weekend won the World Amateur Championship which means not only does he head to Newport in good form and with his cue arm nicely oiled, but he goes then knowing he has a two-year tour card next season so the pressure is off him. With Wilson not firing on all cylinders and Si Jiahui full of confidence the underdog looks worthy of being supported.
Back S.Jiahui to beat G.Wilson for a 3/10 stake at 2.63 with Bet365